There is an excellent program on BBC iPlayer called “The Big Silence”
Presented by Abbot Christopher Jamison of Worth Abbey, it will attempt to show that teaching of meditation and contemplation to five ordinary people has real, beneficial effects on their everyday lives.
Worth Abbey is an extraordinary place. I met my wife through the Lay Community there; it has since spread its wings to become the Lay Community of St Benedict:
We were married in the Abbey Church. Just this weekend, our daughter attended her first weekend for teenagers there. The ministry to young Catholics (and others) is particularly good.
A small point of correction – Fr Christopher is no longer the Abbot (although he probably was so when the filming was being done). Over the summer the monks decided to appoint Abbot Kevin after I believe 10 years of Fr Christopher at the helm. I don’t think he retains the title of Abbot (like US Presidents do!) – if you look at the Radio Times article (that certain reference point of ecclesiastical clarity) he is referred to throughout the article as Fr Christopher.
Alas I missed the show itself as I’m over in the States …
A tad off topic, but…
A truly wonderful story. I had to check the date, to make sure it was not an elaborate April Fools joke.
Wouldn’t one love to meet ‘Elly Barnes’?
“Wouldn’t one love to meet ‘Elly Barnes’?”
Maybe in a Steel Cage Death Match, Toad. 😉
Although, given that she’s female, I feel slightly uncomfortable about make that unserious comment.
By definition “she” is female – doh!
A Sotomayor-type “wise latina woman” moment.
Four of my 11 nephews were educated at Worth Abbey. By the fine upright young Catholic men they have turned out to be, the Benedictine education must have been doing something right!
Also my godfather (now deceased) was a monk at Worth, so we often visited this beautiful place, although personally I dislike the new modern chapel, more resembling a theatre than a church in my eyes 😦 .
Unfortunately, because I was travelling, I was unable to see the programme on the BBC, but I’m hoping one of my sisters will have recorded it for me!
I’m really glad that your nephews benefitted from their Benedictine education, Kathleen.
My eldest son was a weekly boarder at Worth for seven years. Beautiful grounds, sound academic education, superb extra-curricular activities and sports facilities, a terrific sense of community, but unfortunately our son lost his childhood faith at that school. A (lay) teacher, whom he greatly respected, convinced him in his last years at Worth that he had been the victim of his parents’ and the monks’ “brainwashing”. My son devoured the subversive reading material put before him (including Nietzsche and Dawkins!), stopped practising the faith that we, his parents, had hoped to pass on to him in collaboration with the school, and became a militant atheist. Although very academic, he told us that after all his years at the school he would have felt ill-equipped to defend the Catholic faith even if he had wanted to. I was heart-broken.
My two younger sons, also boarders but at a non-denominational school where they often encountered strongly anti-Catholic views, are firm in their faith. The youngest is hoping to study for the priesthood. I’ve given up trying to make sense of it all. I just pray that God will!
On the contrary, you are to be heartily congratulated on having a son who has ever heard about Nietzsche, let alone read him. He will go far.
To indulge in a bit of autoburrography, I sat in on a very basic philosophy course at a university in Pennsylvania a few years ago. It started, naturally enough, with Plato and went on through (via Nietzsche, no doubt) to the likes of Sartre and Wittgenstein.
“I suppose the students are impatient to get on to the the ‘modern’ stuff, Sartre and Wittgenstein and so on? ” Toad naively asked. “No, because they’ve never heard of Sartre and Wittgenstein,” said the prof.
So, be comforted with that, Mmve.
It is important to be familiar with many ways of seeking for ‘the truth.’
As to ‘making sense of it all’, well, yes – it isn’t easy.
‘He will go far.’
Hopefully in the footsteps of St Augustine.
Oh, that must be very sad for you! But all is not lost. The seed of Faith was planted by you, and might well blossom again one day, as it has for many others who lose their Faith when young. Keep praying, like St Monica did for her beloved son, St Augustine.
I had my own worries about my eldest son too. He went through a phase of being a bit wild, but now with a good job and the right friends he is settling down, DG.
I disagree with you Toad (as usual ;-)) in that it is not necessary to stuff one’s mind with the “enemy’s” literature in order to be a cultured citizen! It’s enough to know who Nietzsche and other famous atheists are, and their meaningless godless philosophy, which is poison to the soul. Didn’t Nietzsche commit suicide in his despair anyway?
St John Bosco was a saint who warned constantly about reading evil books. In this day and age, that would include unsuitable TV, films, web pages etc. Even St Ignatius of Loyala bitterly regretted some of his early reading material that he thought had polluted his mind.
Of course it’s true that one cannot go through life with blinkers on, and in order to defend one’s beliefs it is necessary to know about other “beliefs” or non-belief. There is no necessity in wallowing in them though, as this lay teacher wrongly pushed Maryla’s son to do. And all this in a Catholic school…….. what a betrayal!
Mmve and Kathleen:
I am aware that I must tread carefully here, and not point any fingers. This is not hard, as toads don’t have any fingers to point.
The word “subversive” should switch on the automatic warning light. Toad, for example is never subversive. Only his ‘enemies’ are.
Same with ‘bias.’ Toad is never biased. When he writes something, it is ‘fair and balanced reporting.’ When his ‘enemies’ reply opposing him, it is inevitably ‘biased.’
And when he reads something he disagrees with, he knows that his ‘enemies’ are stuffing his head with ‘poison.’
But when he reads something he agrees with, he says, “My, what an intelligent woman that is!”
“St John Bosco was a saint who warned constantly about reading evil books. In this day and age, that would include unsuitable TV, films, web pages etc. Even St Ignatius of Loyala bitterly regretted some of his early reading material that he thought had polluted his mind. “
But how Did Bosco know a book was ‘evil’ without reading it? And if Ignatius had not ‘polluted’ his mind when young, he would not have been the admired saint he is now. He might still have been a saint and still admired. But different. Not so saintly, perhaps? He could hardly be more…
I reserve the right to make my own mind up. You, and yours, are equally entitled to do likewise.
First, the ‘subversive’ label, then the book bonfire.
What gets burned depends, of course, on who is holding the matchbox…
(As far as I can gather, Fred did not commit suicide. He certainly did, however, go off his rocker and tried to stop a man cruelly beating a horse.)
mmvc, God will make sense of it all. I’m sorry your son is having such a tough transition. Like you, I feel that the Catholic schools failed my children. In our case, they were taught cafetaria Catholicism – it wasn’t till they got to adulthood that they were challenged by atheism.
I’m with Toad in believing in the value of such a challenge, though not in the setting of a faith school.
I am convinced that people who are intellectually gifted are called to a faith based on reason, and that means first leaving their childhood faith behind. Some do this as easily as a flower opening – my eldest was like that. She read widely, but from all across the spectrum – Christian philosophers as well as agnostic, Buddhist, Islamic, and the rest.
She stopped making her faith central for a while, but never entirely lost it, and in her first year at university came quietly back to it. The other girls have had a much rougher passage – but one is firmly home – and a wonderful Catholic mother and wife, one is just outside the harbour, and one moves in and out with the tides – more Catholic than the Pope one day, and back to the cafetaria the next. The boys are each where they need to be at the moment. God has them in the palm of his hand. I just pray and wait.
I’m praying for you, too, Toad. You’ve had a long search, but you’re more confident of your goal than you let us see, I think.
At this stage in your “long search” (nothing pejorative intended) would it be fair to assume that you are a practical atheist?
If so, do you agree that, philosophically speaking, strict determinism is the logical consequence of such a world view?
Would you accept that, in world view of atheism, ‘choice’, ‘making up your own mind’, etc, are illusions?
I would not describe myself as an atheist, either ‘practical’ or impractical.
So the other questions aren’t really relevant.
I am someone who doubts a lot. But I would cautiously say that ‘choice’ and ‘making up your own mind,’ do not appear to me to be illusions. Although they may be. I don’t really know. The thing about an illusion is that it is often impossible to decide whether it is an illusion or not.
Without outside assistance.
Which may be, in itself, an illusion.
We cannot know for certain that anything exists outside of ourselves, or that free will and choice truly exist at all – and likewise we cannot know for certain that they do not.
This being the case, – I intend to operate on the working hypothesis that what I perceive through my senses is real and that my brain is functioning in accordance with design specifications.
After all, what have I got to lose (as Paschal would have it)?
I would not presume to speak for you, but if I were to accept Pascal’s wager, what I would lose would be my self-respect and whatever credibility I thought I had. Too high a price.
But that’s just Toad.
Re: “I intend to operate on the working hypothesis that what I perceive through my senses is real and that my brain is functioning in accordance with design specifications. “
Suppose you ‘perceive’ a window on the side of a building, only to discover it is a clever tromp l’oeil painting of one? (This happened to the realist philosopher Moore.) How about the ‘bent’ stick in the water? How can you know that what you ‘perceive’ is not a dream? A mirage? A trick of the light?
Easy to ask all these questions …
A test of that working hypothesis is that when I touch the window, it feels like brick; when I pull the stick out of the water, it retains its shape, Toad.
My test of the working hypothesis that my experiences of the numinous are experiences of a real Presence is my whole life. So far, no bricks, and the stick is still beautifully curved.
Yes, I agree with you that Pascal’s wager, on its own, is not a good enough reason – but if I was in a situation (I’m not – see previous para) where I had insufficient evidence to go either way, and was unlikely to find evidence, Pascal’s wager makes more sense to me than flipping a coin.
Though truth to tell, I’d probably stay on the fence – for the good view, if nothing else.
“I would not describe myself as an atheist, either ‘practical’ or impractical.”
Agnostic, then? (Functionally, the same thing.)
As I’ve said, or at the very least least implied, before, Toad, I think your ‘doubts’ are a convenient way of avoiding the implications of your practical atheism.
To be fair, you’ve never acknowledged a consistent world view; you’ve never offered any philosophical or religious view which can be scrutinised.
Whenever you’re pinned down, you simply ignore that and start talking about something else, or you take other ‘evasive measures’, hiding behind your “doubts”, etc.
My final attempt for today: you’re a practical atheist solipsist. 🙂
” … you’ve never offered any philosophical or religious view which can be scrutinised.”
It may be more accurate to say you’ve never offered any coherent philosophical or religious world view, etc.
I greatly appreciate all your thoughts on my comment.
If I’m honest, the hurt at the betrayal (you nailed it, Kathleen, we felt betrayed)
still surfaces at times. The teacher in question didn’t remain at Worth for long. It stands to reason that someone so hostile to Catholicism should not teach in any Catholic school. Atheist philosophies taught within the context of a Christian/Catholic education is one thing, but this was something different altogether. The cafeteria approach you describe, Joyful, though perhaps more subtle, is also abhorrent. Faith is a gift. Having discovered just how precious and fragile a gift it is, I desired it for my children more than anything else. I realised that a natural process of questioning, reasoning and even rebellion might occur in adolescence and adulthood, but hoped that with guidance and prayer this would ultimately serve to strengthen and mature the faith. Somewhat naively, I had never considered the possibility of such outright undermining of that most important of parental roles. I guess this is part of spiritual warfare, and our children’s souls are not exempt from the raging battle between good and evil.
But we have God, the angels, and the saints on our side, mmvc, and your son’s own heart touched by the graces of Baptism and Confirmation. You may have been routed in that particular battle, but the war for his soul is a long way from over. We’ll all pray for him to come home (along with BC’s girl and all our children).
You are so right, Joyful. Thank you. xx
People on CP&S show far more interest in Toad than he deserves. But he does see it as kindly meant and is appreciative. Mmve’s son is much more interesting.
“It may be more accurate to say (Toad has) never offered any coherent philosophical or religious world view, etc.”
It would be, I feel, presumptuous and, worse, boring (and solipsistic) to do so on here. I have a great many opinions about all sorts of things, both sacred and profane, as we all do, but Omvendt is right – no coherent philosophy (my views keep shifting) and skepticism regarding the assorted and various religions of the world.
In fact, if I did have a fully-formed outlook on all that, I probably would not be following CP&S.
While somewhat suspicious of ‘isms,’ I admit a leaning towards the now deeply unfashionable Existentialism. (Which, as we know, need not exclude God.)
Maybe Toad should put something on his own blog. But he is very lazy.
“But how did Don John Bosco know a book was ´evil´without reading it?”
Maybe he did read some, I don´t know. But he would certainly have seen the consequences that happened to those who did read bad books. For instance, one doesn´t need to delve into pornography to know that it is bad. It is also a fact that extremely violent or satanical films lead a lot of (especially young) people to commit crimes.
Maryla (mmvc) is right. Faith is a very special gift….. and how could any loving parent not want this “pearl of unfathomable price” for their child? One should nurture this incipient Faith in the right environment, using reason too of course. I repeat, I don´t think one should avoid opening the child´s eyes to an intelligent awareness of all other ways of thinking, but it is surely natural that anything resembling the approach of that teacher mmvc was telling us about, encouraging atheism, is doing exactly the contrary.
Another of my nephews, who did not go to a Catholic school, has also become an atheist by reading solely (why?) authors of this mindset. Also a great sadness for my sister, but like Joyful, she feels he is held in the palm of the Lord by our prayer, and she has unfailing hope for him.
Toad, you are honest – that´s a great quality! I shall continue to pray for you (if you don´t mind) that you will meet Our Lord on your own journey to Damascus one day.
Praying for you too, Toad. And good to have you here on CP&S.
“…For instance, one doesn´t need to delve into pornography to know that it is bad. “
No, but I suggest one does has to ‘delve’ (if necessary) into pornography in order to realise that it is, in fact, pornography.
And, even then, what constitutes pornography is largely a matter of opinion. At one time, ‘Lady Chatterley ‘ was.
Remember what the prosecuting counsel said?
Now it’s probably on the O-level syllabus, or whatever. Tempi cambi.
I also remember Bernard Levin first using the ‘F’ word on, “That Was The Week That Was.” Crikey! Got no sleep that night!
And to be on CP&S with you all is good. For me, at any rate..
I presume you would accept the communal (scientific as well as common sense) view that drinking bleach is dangerous, without insisting on your right to taste it for yourself, or to quibble over technicalities (e.g. exact chemical formula). If it’s labelled bleach and does the job, then most would accept communal wisdom and avoid drinking it. But if you feel otherwise, good luck with that personal experience thing.
A clear and deliberate aim of secular thinking is to undermine unfashionable communal authority – for fun and profit. So we can (must!) accept the authority of science however far scientists pontificate beyond their fields of study, but are urged to shrug off the wisdom of millenia regarding morality and personal responsibility.
It comes back to our earlier and unfinished discussion about the categories of truth available to us.
Times have moved on since the Lady Chatterley trial: I can assure you that neither my wife nor my servants would allow me to read such a book.
“While somewhat suspicious of ‘isms,’ I admit a leaning towards the now deeply unfashionable Existentialism. (Which, as we know, need not exclude God.)”
The little Kierkegaard I’ve read I’ve found fascinating – and pleasurable too.
I think he once said, “When a monkey peers into (the Gospel), no Apostle can be seen looking out … ”
Quoth mmcv, “And good to have you here on CP&S.”
“So we can (must!) accept the authority of science however far scientists pontificate beyond their fields of study, but are urged to shrug off the wisdom of millenia regarding morality and personal responsibility.”
Couple of points here.
1: Why should ‘pontificating’ be the sole province of pontiffs, or their subordinates? Surely even scientists are allowed to pontificate on morality, as are dustmen, or
ex-prime ministers, or even philosophers? When pontiffs pontificate on, say stem cell research (whatever that is) is that not ‘outside theirfields of study’? Or is ‘morality’ a job for the experts with their collars back to front?
2: I don’t personally feel ‘urged’ by anybody to shrug off the wisdom of millenniums – of the Greeks, the Enlightenment, the Renaissance, the New Testament. Do you? I suppose you must.
3: I don’t see the wisdom of millenniums being in any way superior than today’s wisdom. In fact, it is surely the same wisdom. But, as I write this, I think I see what you are getting at.
But, horrible though much of life is morally these days, I strongly suspect it is no morally worse than life in the past. But that of course, is relative to where one lives or lived.
Spain now, is much nicer and morally decent than it was 50 years ago. Britain and America may well be worse, may well not. Nigeria and Israel are certainly far worse.
I suspect Europe is a nicer, more morally decent place now than it was 300 years ago. And in Dr. Johnson’s day – when everybody agreed on some sort of moral code (so they say) – violence, injustice and misery were far more prevalent than today, so the historians say.
Of course these are only my opinions. And will get us nowhere. So maybe we should ignore number 3.
” … when everybody agreed on some sort of moral code … ”
1: That’s a problem right there. That’s not how morality works. We do not invent it, or create it via ‘codes’; we acknowledge its objective reality.
2: I think what Manus is getting at is that some scientists think that their experiments, theories and explorations in science somehow bestow upon them the right to spout dangerous nonsense in the ‘spheres’ of morality, social policy, etc.
Your comments illustrate my point well. Of course scientists can pontificate on science itself; that does not make them experts on ethics, not even necessarily on the ethics of science. We are all free to subscribe to whatever systems of believe we choose. That does not mean that all opinions on morality are equally well informed. The modern conceit is to suppose that my half-baked collation is just as good as anything the Church might come up with, drawing upon those billions of person-years of collective experience.
Humanity remains in a mess – why sure. I believe Chesterton said that the one Christian doctrine one can discover through experience is that of original sin. It’s the Enlightenment utopians who have some explaining to do.
Of course, we all have a different view on what crimes “cry out to heaven for vengeance”. For some, it is oppressive regimes, for others it is abortion. Our take on comparing time and place will be coloured by such considerations. However, such comparisons ought to acknowledge the vast improvements in material wealth and technological control we have developed over the last couple of centuries – surely we could have done better with these gifts?
“….scientists think that their experiments, theories and explorations in science somehow bestow upon them the right to spout dangerous nonsense in the ‘spheres’ of morality, social policy, etc.”
Says Omvendt. Agreed. And what, I wonder, bestows on me, and Omvendt, and Manus the right to spout our ‘dangerous nonsense’?
“…the vast improvements in material wealth and technological control we have developed over the last couple of centuries – surely we could have done better with these gifts?”
Says Manus. Agreed, utterly agreed. And I believe the reason is that we are, as a species, mad. Barking. Born mad, most likely through evolving too fast.
Pascal agrees (I’m always using this) “Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would merely amount to another form of madness.”
And I would have to ask why God didn’t prevent us from being mad. I suppose he likes us this way.
Raven, belatedly, re Lady Chatterly.
Did you hear of the belted Earl’s comment at the time?
“Don’t mind me wife and me servants readin’ it. Damned if I want me gamekeeper readin’ it, though!”
Let’s not mix up two separate things. The dignity of every human person permits and indeed requires each to form their own opinion on moral and other matters. In that sense we are all entitled to spout our own nonsense. But surely for the vast majority not blessed with moral genius that ought to entail subscribing (albeit kicking and screaming) to one of the main traditions on such matters, with due deference paid to great thinkers and teachers past and present, and proper respect for those alternative traditions that have been rejected.
What seems to be the proffered norm today is a bizarre mixture of hubris and superficiality in which I can concoct my own moral order (with the 0.1% of uninformed effort I can be bothered to devote to the task) while cheerfully deriding the traditions, because the traditions have tainted histories, whereas I’m all right Jack.
Of course some search diligently without ever finding a satisfactory answer, which is painful, while those of us who believe we have found the answer have different sufferings, not least the shame of those tainted histories.
“What seems to be the proffered norm today is a bizarre mixture of hubris and superficiality”
And you will get no argument from me on that, Manus.
“But surely for the vast majority not blessed with moral genius that ought to entail subscribing (albeit kicking and screaming) to one of the main traditions on such matters,”
When it comes to not being blessed with moral genius, Toad is the first in the queue, no question.
So, he has to spend bloody hours every day reading Rahner, and Dawkins, and Russell, and Montaigne, and Pascal, and Popper, and Wittgenstein, and Jesus, and now Sam Harris, and soon Hans Kung, and God knows who all else, (Nietzsche of course) trying to make some sense of it all.
Lucky he doesn’t have to work. Much.
But, apart from the bit on wife beating, and the virgins in Heaven, he stubbornly refuses to read the Koran.
Lazy, biased old Toad!
“The dignity of every human person permits and indeed requires each to form their own opinion on moral and other matters. ”
Couple of observations here, Manus (if you don’t mind).
The inherent dignity of the human person can only come from God.
I’m sure you accept that, of course. Otherwise we’re just “computers made of meat”, aren’t we?
And regarding moral opinions, the Church is clear that:
“Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.”
I envy the mileage you’ve put into the search. Do you know how you’ll know the best answer you’ll find? And it seems to me that you know enough about the Koran for your own purposes, just as others know enough about pornography without delving any deeper.
Of course you are right on both counts. But I’m sure others such as Toad will recognise some notion of the dignity of the human person without (yet) acknowledging that its only sure foundation is in God.
This is where Omvendt and I part company. The idea that the inherent dignity of a person can only come from God, is preposterous to me. But, if I were to point to somenone who clearly has said dignity, but no God – say T.H.Huxley, or Darwin, or Vergil, or Ghandi, or Noel Coward, or Bernard Williams – and say, “How about him?” Omvendt would just say God gave Huxley him/them their dignity, whether they it liked or not.
“Omvendt would just say God gave Huxley him/them their dignity, whether they it liked or not.”
Pithy ‘response’, Toad.
I like it! :0
That last remark was supposed to end with a big grin.
I do think Toad’s ‘response’ on my behalf is both funny and right. 🙂
I expected something along the lines of Toad’s response, which is why I avoided the issue in my own comments as I didn’t want us to get sidetracked. But to the point (and I’ll try and be brief) – one of the books I read on my travels was “Subverting Global Myths” by Vinoth Ramachandra who is an Anglican theologian living in Sri Lanka; in a chapter on human rights he argues as follows:
“It is the biblical concept of imago Dei that more than any other provides the ontological grounding in human rights which purely secular accounts lack. Medical historians have pointed out for instance that the care of defective newborns simply was not a medical concern in classic antiquity. The morality of the killing of sickly or deformed newborns appears not to have been questioned until the birth of the Christian church. No pagan writer – whether Greek, Roman, Indian or Chinese – appears to have raised the question of whether human beings have inherent value ontologically, irrespective of social value, legal status, age, sex, and so forth. The first espousal of an idea of inherent human value in Western Civilization was formed in the image of God.
Ronald Dworkin famously argues that [equality] ‘is too fundamental , I think, to admit of any defense in the usual form …’
However, if one were to look at other ages and other cultures it is certainly not the case that human equality was regarded everywhere and always a good thing. Indeed this has been a minority view … a cultural presumption that only makes sense if we remember the deep penetration of Western societies over many centuries by the biblical tradition. Nietzche saw this connection with his customary clarity, denouncing equality as immoral and harmful … ‘The poison of the doctrine of ‘equal rights for all’ – it was Christianity that spread it most fundamentally.’
(long section citing all sorts of alternative cultural attitudes to human rights)
… the physician, Nietzsche urged, should encourage in him- or herself active contempt for the invalid, regarding the invalid as a parasite on society when he or she comes to a certain stage of degeneration. The ‘death of God’ does not lead to the glorification of humans but rather takes from men and women any claim they may have to be treated with reverence by their fellows”
(and of course, this is exactly what we see creeping back into society, particularly regarding end of life issues).
Not too long I trust.
“Not too long I trust.”
Just right to the back of the net, Manus.
Considering that this thread was supposed to be about “The Big Silence,” we seem to have made a lot of noise between us.
I must say I agree, both with Manus and Jeeves, who informs Bertie Wooster, “You will not care for Nietzsche, sir; he is fundamentally unsound.”
I suspect, opines(!) Toad, the the trivial difference between, say, Omvendt, and myself is that he puts 🙂 at the end of his thoughts and I don’t.
And 🙂 is God.
Well, God bless you Sir Toad, on this great (if slightly confused) feast day: we celebrate the Mass of All Saints this morning (For all the Saints with a string quartet is wonderful) and then this evening we man the baracades for Halloween. Ho hum.
Thank God they don’t ‘do’ Halloween here. I detested it in the States. Constant ringing of the doorbell, dog going nuts every time, dispensing fistfuls of miniature Hershey bars to importunate urchins from miles around. The Devil take it, I say!
Indeed, what a marvellous opportunity it affords us all to practice loving charity through gritted teeth. 🙂